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Predicting changes in species interactions following species loss in hydroelectric reservoir islands

Project description

Studying space interactions in hydroelectric dam ecosystems

The rising need for energy led to the proliferation of hydroelectric dams worldwide. However, damming is associated with some negative impacts on the environment, significantly affecting local ecosystems and tropical forests in particular. Damming causes habitat loss and fragmentation. It is noticed that after the inundation of an area, the ridgetops become islands with their own ecosystems. The EU-funded Lost-Biodiv project is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action that intends to analyse the environmental impacts of the ecosystems of these islands. It will particularly study and evaluate the interactions between species in 35 forest islands and three mainland continuous forest areas in the biggest hydroelectric dam in South America. The research will use available data on vertebrates, invertebrates and plants.

Objective

The burgeoning energy demand worldwide has led to a proliferation of hydroelectric dams, firstly in the northern hemisphere and subsequently across tropical developing countries, which have become the new hydropower frontiers. Currently, hydropower development is already one of the primary means of habitat loss and fragmentation in tropical forests, hence a key threat to biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided to the entire humanity. After damming, all low elevation areas are inundated, while previous ridgetops in undulating terrain often become islands. The objective of this Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Action is to dissect the ecological impacts of habitat insularization induced by hydroelectric dams on ecosystem functioning, by comprehensively assessing species interactions across 35 forest islands and three mainland continuous forest sites across one of the largest hydroelectric reservoirs in South America. Firstly, specific prey-predator interactions – herbivory, insectivory and seed predation – will be quantified in situ and related to patch, landscape and habitat-quality metrics. Then, species interactions across terrestrial food webs will be evaluated using theoretical approaches based on species co-occurrence and codispersion analysis. To do so, the Experienced Researcher will use data previously collected by the host research group on vertebrate, invertebrate and plant species, and apply novel framework approaches based on mutualistic and antagonistic networks, some of them developed by the collaborator group. The innovative knowledge to be produced is expected to considerably improve strategic environmental impact assessments of planned hydroelectric dams and manage existing and future hydropower development. Moreover, while collaborating with very-high profile researchers, this Action will allow the Experienced Researcher to acquire new sophisticated analytical skills on species interactions and foodweb-related processes.

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA
Net EU contribution
€ 183 454,80
Address
EARLHAM ROAD
NR4 7TJ Norwich
United Kingdom

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Region
East of England East Anglia Norwich and East Norfolk
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 183 454,80